The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) reported Tuesday that an appeal by APAX USA Inc., a wholesale supplier of organic nutritional supplement products to retailers, over the company’s proposed suspension has been denied.
The verdict was handed down in a Nov. 7 decision by Bruce Summers, administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the NOP.
According to the NOP’s Organic Integrity Database, APAX USA, based in Castle Rock, Colo., maintains an organic certificate granted by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) in December 2017.
APAX sells nutritional organic superfood supplements, powders and capsules under the Feel Good Organic Superfoods brand.
OTCO had issued APAX a notice of noncompliance in Dec. 12, 2018, stating that APAX’s turmeric, ginger, omega 3-6-9, and garlic capsules did not use an organic capsule shell.
OTCO also said APAX’s that the four products, along with APAX’s echinacea and Vita-Fruit-Veggie products were not produced by a NOP-compliant co-manufacturer, India-based Stiriti Ayur Therapies Pvt. Ltd.
OTCO then issued a notice of proposed suspension on March 8, 2019, which was followed by the company filing an appeal to the NOP on April 8, 2019.
While OTCO also acknowledged that a former employee erroneously approved Stiriti as a co-manufacturer based on Stiriti’s organic certification by India’s National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), the organic certifier said APAX had to stop selling, labeling or representing the encapsulated products as organic.
In its appeal, APAX stated that each of the encapsulated products is 100 percent organic and only the capsule itself is at issue. APAX said it stopped using the capsule shells after it received the December 2018 notice of noncompliance and that it would start using a new, certified-organic capsule on Aug. 13, 2019, at the latest.
However, Summers concluded, APAX “offered no evidence of this.”
Meanwhile, APAX had requested to use its remaining inventory of the four products in question, citing contractual commitments to retailers. However, Summers said that the company “has not responded to NOP and provided any information or documentation to substantiate the contractual commitments or amount of inventory on hand, and has not substantiated that the products in this alleged inventory are already ‘in the stream of commerce.'”
Summers said that APAX also continued to label and represent the products in question as organic on its website, using the NOP organic seal.
APAX has until Dec. 7 to file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. A request for comment from the company was not immediately returned.
If APAX waives the hearing, the AMS will direct OTCO to issue a notice of suspension.
However, the company may immediately submit a request for reinstatement of its certification with any USDA-accredited organic certifier.
The request must be accompanied by evidence demonstrating correction of each noncompliance and corrective actions taken to comply with and remain in compliance with federal organic regulations.
See Summers’ decision here.